Walden World

The wacky and wonderful tales of Beth's and Catherine's global adventures. And all things Walden too.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Berlin the Weird...


Near our hotel in a not so nice part of Berlin, Catherine and I began to wonder if where we went to post, was the Internet Cafe in which creep nut cannibal, Lucca Magnotta got caught. 

In fact both of us were a little weirded out and thought we had seen the owner before. Was he the guy who was trying to sell the Magnotta chair?

Turns out it's not the scene of the take down but close to it.

Berlin is, as we remembered it from a few years ago: still weird.

We were crestfallen, for example, to find that our beloved 'laundry mat/wine bar' that served awesome drinks, showed great films and let you do oodles of laundry had 'turned coat' into (and I quote) 'Imperials Swingers Club': trust the Berliners to wreck fantastic clotheswashing facilities with a refocus to free sex unt Frauen swappen...
Checkpoint Charlie Haus, though a storied museum with a long history, resembles a church 'jumble sale' so we think that if you want a clear, concise and and thoughtful rendition of the Cold War you go elsewhere.

The what we can only describe as the 'Ode to the Glorious God Ronald Reagan' room will make any (small L)  liberal or moderate Canadian nauseous: apparently Reagan saved Medicare, gave to the poor and single handedly ended Communism.

Though I left the room before finishing all the 'exhibits', I think Reagan also had the personal power of flight as well as the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound...

Odd ducks abound such as elderly punks who ride the M trams, men in Fezs and strange women dance with their donuts...yes...dancing with a donut pastry.

I wonder if Kennedy is the cause of this. When he said 'Ich bein ein Berliner' he meant to say: "I am a citizen of Berlin". However by putting in "ein" apparently in German he said was a thing, not a citizen.

Thus he said "I am a donut": a 'Berliner' the name of  a famous pastry from Berlin.

At the Deustches Museum Franz Lebowitz's quip from the 1970s about why she prefers liberal democracies: "Communism is far too boring and Fascism is far too exciting" was was given full expression in the special "Focus on the DDR Exhibit" which is running currently .

It appears to have been curated by a former GDR museum director as it has to have been the most entirely boring show I have ever witnessed. The entire thing is a collection of pennants given to workers for meeting production quotas; busts of Lenin; farm tractors and food packaging. They actually had a quarter of an empty egg carton on display. The audio guide that accompanied it played excerpts from GDR party speeches which ran on and on and on.

Then compare that with the 40 or so rooms devoted to the rise and fall of Nazi Germany and you can see what Lebowitz was talking about. Far too much excitement...

Other odd things we noticed in Berlin. Someone had opened a "dark restaurant" which was apparently staffed entirely by persons with visual impairments. You would order food, not sure if you got to read a menu or they just told you, and then they would bring you food and you ate your entree, meal and dessert entirely in the dark.

Oh and the image above is from the Brandenburg Gate. I am not sure what on earth it is all about but it is either a business meeting or a tour of Berlin taken by way of segways...


Thursday, September 06, 2012

Raw Seafood, Hot Pots and Rain...oh and Lava too...

In the town of Syykkisholmur on the edge of the Snaerfelles pennisula there is an excellent public geothermal pool complex, as everywhere in Iceland.

Outdoors in 8 degrees celcius and in cold and nasty rain you can lounge in an Olympic sized pool heated to body temperature by the volcanic water. To boot, it features a really terrific two story water slide, also heated to body temperature.

Then there is a large hot wading pool and then hot pots:  mineral water baths heated to 42 degrees where you just sit back, keep warm and stare up at the raining sky.

After a sea tour this morning wherein we visited a number of quite bizarre volcanic basalt islands,  we were treated to the crew doing a brief net bottom drag which elicited a bounty of scallops, sea urchins, star fish and crabs.

With a delicious Chilean Sauvigion Blanc to accompany the feast, the sailors began shucking and we ate gobs of raw scallops pulled straight from the seabed. We were also introduced to sea urchin cavier which was as excellent as the scallops.

Catherine spent her between scallop time, rescuing every crab or star fish which had been pulled up and returned them to the cold and briny deep...

You can see here Catherine's rescure operation:

Back to land and then a drive around the famous volcano Snaekesfelles covered in snow and shrouded in mist.

Icelandic ponies, posing sheep and multitude of rainbows covering the icy sky.

Last night as I blogged, the guy from the hotel ran in breathless to announce a full display of Northern Lights dancing green and pink in curtains in the sky above.

He even started phoning each guest in the hotel to wake them up to see the display.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Scary Icelandic Ghosts and Quite Unsettling Volcano Information

So we went to Vik in South Iceland which is quite near the unpronounceable volcano that stopped all air traffic over Europe back in April and May 2010. I remember it well as we were in Tunsia and then in Naples and were, luckily, able to fly being just south of the ash cloud.

Today the difficult to pronounce glacier-volcano has gone back to sleep but based on vulcanologists predictions the volcano next to it, Katla, is likely to blow at any time and send far more ash, gas and tephra into the atmosphere making the 2010 event seem a tad dull.

These active volcanoes seem to blow at time spans of 50-200 and some years, thus air travel was limited or non-existent the last time many of the giants went off and created a pastoral global havoc.

For example, a huge volcano exploded in 1815 causing the ´year without a summer´ everywhere from Europe to Canada.

In Europe it was horrible and a group of tourists, namely Lord Byron, Percy and Mary Shelley and others summered in Geneva. However the weather was so cold and spooky that all they could do to pass the time was inhale opium and then make up ghost stories.

Mary Shelley won the day in terms of out creeping everyone else with her creation which we know now as ´'Frankenstein'.

Volcanoes have a long reach, from literature to famine.

In 1783 an enormous volcano chain exploded in Iceland causing a European wide starvation known as the 'Famine Haze'. The volume of ash obscured the sun and poisonous gases killed livestock and people across northern Europe and caused winter like conditions for years. It has been suggested that the French Revolution might have been sparked, in part, by the catastrophe as bread became scarce due to failing crops. Thus the wit of Marie Antoinette, the Queen of France, in replying to cry of the people during the bread riots of the peasants (who had no bread)  'let them eat cake' sort of dries up in the mouth if you think about context. 

A volcano is a creature not to trifle with.

As for ghosts, if you weren´t scared silly at the ring of brooding, dark volcanoes that surround the town of Vik, the gale force winds or icy rain could creep you out too. Out in the bay a bevy of strange spiked towers hover in the mist. Apparently they are the frozen bodies of gigantic trolls who tried to pull in a ship for salvage but turned to rock when they overstayed their night and were exposed to the sun.

Then there was Joka - the evil ghost who haunted the land around the hotel we stayed at.

Really more bunk houses then hotel per-se but quite Alpine in design and style. The ocean was one high tidal volcanic flood away from sweeping your car, and you, into the briny deep.

Anyway, right by the sea in the howling gale and tin pelting rain I heard the story of Joka.

She was a woman who loved a man and she became obsessed with him.  She was older and had a teenaged daughter.

Unfortunately, despite their co-habitation, the man she loved became far more enamored of her daughter, after some time, then Joka.

Joka found them coupling together and mad with grief wiled away and died.

However upon her death, her beloved could find no peace as she haunted him mercilessly through some creepy form of ghost stalking.

So terrified was he, that he went to the local priest for counsel and the priest foretold that if the man went to an Island away from Vik for 20 years he would be free from the hauntings of the ghost Joka.

The man did as instructed but after 16 years got lazy and decided that it would probably be enough time and  ventured back by boat to Vik.

He landed at the site of our hotel and, through the mist, and to his horror saw Joka waiting for him with a daggger drawn.

She stabbed him to death on the beach cackling madly.

So is the story of Joka.

With tales like this you can see why anyone would watch ´volcano unpronounceable´with a watchful eye.

Brrr...Joka and the volcano that sits and waits...I wonder if volcanoes cackle...

Umm...does anyone have a flashlight..